The Return of the Militants

BBC Newsnight’s Liz MacKean reports in advance of the publication of a report for The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) – Return of the Militants: Violent Dissident Republicanism

From the BBC report

The report’s author, Martyn Frampton, told Newsnight that Northern Ireland is at a crucial juncture because of the coming together of two distinct generations of dissident republicans.

Veterans disillusioned by the direction the republican movement has taken, who no longer believe the Sinn Fein political path has been sufficiently beneficial, are joining forces with disaffected teenagers from Northern Ireland’s poorest areas.

“It is the coming together of these two generations, the foot soldiers if you like – the angry young men with the seasoned 40-somethings who have a degree of expertise and know-how – that makes this current time particularly dangerous,” he says.

From the report’s Executive Summary [pdf file]

Increased threat from dissidents

• The danger posed by violent, dissident Irish republicans is now at its greatest level in over a decade. MI5 has raised the official threat level from these groups from ‘moderate’ to ‘substantial’ and warned against the real possibility of a strike on the British mainland.

• Violent dissident republicans are committed to the conduct of an armed campaign in Northern Ireland. Their aim is to prevent ‘normalisation’, undermine the province’s peace process and foment political instability – to show that the ‘Irish Question’ has not been solved. In their view, that question can never be solved for as long as there is no united Ireland.

• Their lethal potential was shown with the triple murder of security force members in March 2009. Since that time, there has been a constant drum-beat of dissident attacks, with varying levels of success. One policeman has been critically injured; several others have received less serious wounds and had ‘lucky misses’. It appears to be a matter of time – of when, not if – dissident republicans will kill again.

Recent history of dissident activities

• There is an important pre-history to the current escalation in violence. Dissident republicanism, the creed of those committed to the path of ‘armed struggle’, survived the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. It also survived the catastrophe of the Omagh bomb of August 1998. Since that time, there have been intermittent but continual attempts to de-rail the peace process. For a long time, these were mostly unsuccessful, or low-level in nature. Consequently, they were largely ignored by the mainstream media, giving a false impression of stability in Northern Ireland.

• The most recent surge in violence is led by the Real IRA and dates back to late 2007, when two off-duty policemen were shot and injured in separate attacks.

• The Real IRA (RIRA), formed in 1997 by members of the Provisional IRA opposed to the peace process, is today composed of two distinct factions. One of them has become increasingly prominent, operating under the banner of ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’ (ONH).

Other splinter groups also active

• There have also been other groups committed to the use of violence against the status quo in Ireland. These include the Continuity IRA (CIRA), and a short-lived Strabane-based splinter group, which – confusingly – also operated under the name of ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’. The former was responsible for the murder of a police officer in March 2009; the latter for a civilian murder in February 2008. This branch of ONH no longer exists and the banner ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’, in dissident republican terms, is now principally associated with the Real IRA.

• Alongside organised forms of violent dissident republicanism, there has been a fragmentation of other republican sub-set organisations, producing groups of unaligned republicans, whose loyalties are often promiscuous.

• Whatever their affiliation, dissidents of one hue or another appear to enjoy increasing control in ‘republican areas’ across Northern Ireland: south Fermanagh, Derry city (Bogside and Creggan), south Derry, north Armagh (Lurgan-Craigavon), east Tyrone, south Armagh and Belfast (north and west).

Weakening of the Provisional IRA and local police

• The growth in dissident strength has been paralleled by the retraction and withering of the Provisional IRA, as well as other structures of social support for the broader Provisional movement (Sinn Féin offices, community groups etc.).

• The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has struggled to respond to the challenge posed by dissident republicans. Senior officers have admitted the existence of a skills-gap. This is a product of a hoped for peace ‘dividend’, which saw the dismantling of the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s (RUC) counter-terrorist infrastructure and wider budgetary cuts.

• The ability of the PSNI to deliver ‘community policing’ has been seriously weakened by dissident violence, with various reports of ‘go-slow’ and ‘no-go’ policing areas.

Effectiveness of dialogue?

• It has been suggested that dialogue might help diminish the dissident threat. But the dissident groups themselves, unsurprisingly, reject such propositions. Their raison d’être is to oppose the political process and the parameters around which it is based.

• Dissidents believe that the mistake the Provisional IRA leadership made in the 1990s was to engage in a flawed negotiation process. In their view, there can be no negotiations until the British agree to leave Ireland. Until such time, they insist the violence must continue. [added emphasis]

• Note: ‘Dissident republicanism’, as a broad phenomenon, includes some who are still committed to the path of violence – but also some who are not. The term ‘dissident’ is in that sense used as a catch-all, to encompass those of an Irish republican persuasion who have broken with the ‘mainstream’ movement of Sinn Féin and the Provisionals. It is by their opposition to the peace process and/or the political status quo in Northern Ireland that they have come to be labelled ‘dissidents’, though they dispute that very term.

And here’s the report’s conclusion.

It would seem, therefore, that the period 2009–10 saw the confluence of various events and factors that brought the situation to a potential ‘tipping point’ in the history of dissident republicanism.  Overall the impression was that violent dissident republicanism could draw on increased numbers of supporters, an expanding territorial base, and an ever-greater ‘skills set’. There were also suggestions of growing levels of cooperation across the various organisations.

To those involved with such groups, the reality of day-to-day life in Northern Ireland appears secondary, when set against the failure of the peace process to deliver Irish unity. They are therefore unconcerned with reforms to the way that Northern Ireland operates, such as changes to police or justice system to make it more palatable to Catholic-nationalist minority population. This line of thinking was encapsulated in March 2010 by Geraldine Taylor of the CIRA-aligned Republican Sinn Féin. She declared that the new Northern Irish Justice Minister would be as much ‘an enemy of the Irish people’ as police officers and British soldiers; the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the local Stormont parliament was said to be merely an ‘extension of British occupation’.

The dissidents oppose the political status quo, reject the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. Those within the ranks of the CIRA, RIRA and ONH are determined to posit a violent challenge to the current dispensation in Northern Ireland.

Republican rejectionism, it should be noted, also ran wider than these purely militant organisations. The last decade has seen the birth of various new entities, all of which claim to embody the ‘truest’ form of Irish republicanism: from the New Republican Forum, to the Republican Network for Unity, to éirígí (and even more recently, to ‘Real Sinn Féin’). All of these view modern Ireland as tainted by the ‘injustices’ that stem from ‘British rule’.  It is for this reason that they use issues such as nationalist opposition to Orange Order parades, or the conditions faced by dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail, to highlight the supposed ‘malignancy’ of the British state. In addition, they note the disparity between what they were offered through the peace process and what it delivered. It was meant, according to Sinn Féin and leaders like Gerry Adams, to be ‘a stepping stone or transition to a united Ireland’, but this has proved illusory. In the eyes of the dissidents all that has happened is that their former comrades have moved ‘to renounce core demands and principles’.

As a result, they see their role as being to stick true to the path of authentic Irish republicanism. As Francie Mackey of the 32CSM has put it,

“History has shown that when many lost their nerve and threw up their arms in surrender, there were always the few and the brave to keep the faith and carry on the torch of republicanism on behalf of our future generations.”

 The 32CSM, together with other political expressions of dissident republicanism, as well as those more militant groups such as the Real IRA, CIRA and ONH now feel themselves to embody the ‘few and the brave’ of contemporary Ireland. For this reason there seems little prospect that the phenomenon of militant Irish republicanism will be disappearing any time soon.

In this context, what needs to be accepted is the fact that sometimes it is simply not possible to co-opt all of those with whom one disagrees. It seems unlikely that the modern day dissidents can be persuaded to accept current political realities. If the British state wishes to defend and preserve the peace process in Northern Ireland it must accept that the dissidents will not be joining that process.  Consequently, to invert the old adage, those who will not join, must eventually be beaten. [added emphasis]

Of course, “they are doing nothing which the Provisionals didn’t do before them and with the same political rationale”.

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  • Alias

    They should properly be called ‘loyalists’ since it is the mainstream that has dissented from ‘republicanism.’ The mainstream are the ‘rejectionist republicans’ and the ‘dissidents’. However, loyalists would be an uncomfortable term. The Shinners sould be referred to as ‘post-republicans’ or simply as constitutionally British nationalists.

  • alan56

    I know where you are coming from but what are the ‘loyalists’ going to deliver…? Another 30 years of violence?

  • Alias

    Well, you haven’t read the thread, Alan, if you still confuse militant nationalists with the non-militant variety.

  • medillen

    Their aim is to create the conditions for a conflict. Rather than as a response to the conditions that caused the previous conflict. It is a bonkers strategy. In other words bring the Brits back and remilitarise so we fight for them to leave again.

  • alan56

    Sorry if I was mistaken. Political struggle is absolutely legitimate, but it is going to be a hard sell. Military struggle is unjustifiable and will fail.

  • White Horse

    The dissidents could be called “Bosnia Baiters” as that is what they are. Surely they know not what they do.

  • Alan Maskey

    Such Tommy rot. Who has killed more people since the GFA? PIRA/PSF or these so called dissidents?
    PIRA were often accused of scoring own goals, of unitentionally killing their own or of making PRO disasters (La Mon, Enniskillen, Harrods).
    But RIRA score own goals intentionally. One only has to think of Denis Donaldson, a key cog in the Adams-Donaldson-McGuinness ring.
    We can and do all accept that MI5, the Gardai and PIRA/MI5 have the dissidents well penetrated. One speaks about old timers helping the dissidents and of them training youngsters. PIRA even exported their expertise to kill Catholics and coppers in Colombia. Get real.
    When Donaldosn stooge, Bobby Sasnds, was dying on hunger strike, the protesters shouted Bobby sands MP. Now they shout Gerry Adams MP. The Gardai shouted Bobby Sands, OT. Now what do they shout?

  • Rory Carr

    “• The growth in dissident strength has been paralleled by the retraction and withering of the Provisional IRA, as well as other structures of social support for the broader Provisional movement (Sinn Féin offices, community groups etc.).”

    Blame that twit Trimble I say. The insistence on premature disarmament of the IRA was a grave mistake and was paralled later in Iraq by the US insistence of the disbandment of the Iraqi police force. If order was to be maintained within those nationalist communities most effected by the Long War in that nervous period before the peace process had a chance to embed itself it would have made the most sense for the IRA to police it and indeed that was accepted thinking on the matter from the Brits -although of course not openly admitted.- until the wimpish Trimble threw a hissy fit as the ground trembled slightly beneath his feet. No brains, no balls and decidedly short on foresight, the rise of the dissidents is in a large part down to his political cowardice.

  • Left Votes?

    “The growth in dissident strength has been paralleled by the retraction and withering of the Provisional IRA, as well as other structures of social support for the broader Provisional movement (Sinn Féin offices, community groups etc.).”

    Can anyone give evidence of the ‘fall’ in the number of SF offices?

    Most of the other pieces of evidence, i.e ‘withering of the Provisional IRA’, cannot be measured, but the number of offices can be.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    So you approve of armed IRA men policing their own areas?

    Do you not remember the young lad who bled to death in the lift in the New Lodge after a personal fall-out with a senior Provo resulted in him being shot?

    And what will they do about paedophiles? Seems any non-PIRA child molesters would take one in each leg whilst PIRA members who rape young children would escape unscathed. Is this fair???

    If that’s the kind of community policing you support it shows the type of person you are.

  • francesco

    The only way to avoid young vulnerable teenagers from disadvantaged working class areas to be recruited by such organizations is to reinforce community policies
    Give them the chance to get a proper education, give them the instruments to choose a different and more prolific path.
    it’s only through education that the link with so called dissidents can be severed once for all

  • 6crealist

    That’s exactly what we needed: more people suffering the same fate as Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn.

    Both murders have catalysed the emergence of a 32-county republic by 2016. Maith thú féin a Rory! Onwards to Provo victory!

  • HeinzGuderian

    Hand them a history book,and point out Oirish terrorists success at forcing Unionists into a ui………..sooner,but more than probably later,the penny will drop !! 🙂

  • Halfer

    What is this Oirish word you keep using?

  • OldSod

    This is really grim stuff. I think most people accepted that things were going to get worse before they got better, but I don’t think the gravity of the situation is really appreciated.
    I felt uneasy when everybody in the media and political circles mocked the dissidents as no-hope psycho’s and incompetent.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still suspect they have more than their fair share of psychos who revel in violence, but it is more sinister than that. They can capitalise on the myth that the IRA was not defeated, but that the IRA was betrayed by it’s political masters. There is certainly some historical precedent for a political party doing this in Europe in the 1930’s with respect to it’s national army in WWI, this certainly shows the danger of wearing “rose tinted glasses” when looking back at a conflict where there was not a definite and conclusive victor.
    The dissidents would argue that as long as the underlying cause of contention (a British constitutional link with Ireland – or occupation as they call it), there will always be political violence. By the same token, they fail to accept that the people of Ireland are entitled to form their own constitutional links or discard them as they democratically wish.
    As another poster commented, they wish to recreate the conditions that facilitated the political violence of 30 years. They need to recreate this scenario, because most people are actually happy enough with the constitutional settlement (which is an imperfect solution to an imperfect political reality).
    The dissidents are banking everything on the 1916 legacy, where a small bunch of militants made a blood sacrifice of their own and many other peoples lives, which at the time had no popular support and was considered wrong and without legitimate mandate, only for this action to receive retrospective approval and legitimacy from the Irish people and the subsequent Irish government.
    This retrospective legitimacy and approval are what the dissidents are using as their mandate, in the absence of a real mandate. A bit like a company borrowing money and manufacturing based on projected earnings and custom rather than ACTUAL earnings or custom.
    Sadly, it is very hard to reason or rationalise with people who have such concepts (which by their definition cannot be disproved).
    Until such time as Nationalism (as in the ideological term) is replaced with a newer concept of identity, I think we will always have these kinds of groups to different degrees.

  • Alan Maskey

    Good comment, OS.

  • custodes custodio (during tea breaks)

    The report – couple of nice points (‘yeeha’ yoof and Shinners vacating political space)but utterly weak on evidence and method.

    Interviews with a few ex security types, newspaper quotes. Tick.

    No interviews with dissidents, even their political reps.

    Not even interviews with dissies who have dumped arms and retreated into the far left (Irps/INLA). Key question – why are they less harmful -what makes them different?

    Very little use of dissident material in public domain – even their own published material.

    Didn’t see any real evidence of referencing other research in the dissie area – not much but does exist.

    Nothing looking at attitude of ‘yoof’ in typical areas – no polls or interviews

    Nothing particularly wrong with the report but it doesn’t say much either. Or really back it up.

    Probably a case of new think tank getting some PR and planting a flag of intent. OK – then give Frampton or a.n. other a few quid to go and do some proper research in lurgan or ardoyne.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    They have admitted themselves that they don’t have the support, manpower or weaponry to force a United Ireland. They are simply trying to show that NI has not been normalised.

    What kind of gullible youth or old Provo wants to spend 25+ years in jail for the noble cause of ‘disrupting normality’???

  • White Horse


    “most people are actually happy enough with the constitutional settlement”

    That may revolt them and their sense that sacrifices have been ignored and that they can only be honoured by warring, but happiness has its own dynamic. In happiness lives a sense of justice and in peace a sense of contentment that warms everyone for the cause of unity, and unity here will lead to unity across the island.

    Indeed what is their strategy? Don’t tell me without mentioning the word “Bosnia”.

  • Alan Maskey

    All these rhetorical circles. Enough of them believe it is worth the candle and that is all that counts with them.
    Have a look at the recent bombs in Athens. Same stupid thinking.

  • White Horse

    Yes, but we’re being told that this is a general republican neurosis. They don’t see the people honouring the flag as much. I see no problem with it.

  • Gaire O Dubhshlaine

    In an moral sense, it is difficult to support any type of violence to achieve a political end, but resistance to oppression is a historical reality in Ireland and elsewhere for countless years. Regardless of agreements, pacts, treaties, cease fires and all the rest of that claptrap, as long as the Brits remain it is like a thorn in the lion’s paw and no matter what, somebody is going to try and remove it by any means. As far as “ignorant Irish Americans”, you know, the ones who supplied arms, money, and moral support? There are many who have not been co-opted into the debacle that NORAID has become. All of us will continue to bide our time. Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde.

  • White Horse


    There are two moral senses, the Christian one and the sociopathic one. To which do you refer?

    They might be best described as Old Testament or New Testament moral systems, value systems. One believes in the effectiveness of evil, the other believes in the effectiveness of good.

    I’m no historian, but I would say that the response of the Irish people throughout history has been about 95% New Testament approach and 5% Old Testament. So there is a cause for peace to last.

  • Rory Carr

    You’ve really lost the plot now, White Horse.

    “Two moral senses”. Now through which of the five senses do we experience either of these moralities? Taste? Touch? Sight? Hearing? Or smell perhaps? have you been watching too many of those fantasy sci-fi movies – “You have the scent of evil about you, Lord Mordrag but I, Knight of the White Horse, with my shining sword of light will put an end to your evil plans.”

    But wait, they are not senses after all, they are systems and are “best described as Old Testament or New Testament moral systems”. One is Christian (presumably that based on the New Testament) and the other, based on the Old Testament, is sociopathic.

    Are you by any chance aware that the whole of Jewish morality is based upon the Old Testament and that Christianity itself also encompasses the Old Testament in its moral teachings, or have you never encountered the Ten Commandments before among Christian teaching? It is the basis of Christian morality too, didn’t you know ? Have you never attended a Catholic Mass where there are readings from the Old Testament contained within the ritual?

    Are then all Jews sociopathic? All Christians too by your skewed reckoning, yet you insist that there are only two moral “senses” (or systems) – one Christian and one sociopathic.

    There is a term for this type of convoluted nonsense in classical philosophy. It is generally referred to as, “just plain bonkers” !

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Is this evidence of British oppression?

  • An Ceide

    I wish they would learn that they do have the weaponry dangling between their legs, It’ll take more time but eventually it will happen.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Ah, the sectarian headcount.

    The sign of a true Irish Republican.

    Considering almost half of Northern Ireland’s catholic population are more than happy with their current place in the UK it’s going to take a brave amount of bedtime horsing to get enough bodies to win a border poll.

    Why not try to convince us Unionists of the merits of a United Ireland?

    That has more chance of working.

  • White Horse

    Old Testament morality is in effect the morality of the nation state, which is why the Jews oblige it. Ideological Jewishness, or a strain of Israeli statehood, often expresses its morality to those who oppose it, and it is all the more vicious than other more mixed national moralities.

    The ten commandments and the other hundreds of laws of the Old Testament were based on the premise that evil works. Death was the punishment for breaking those man-made rules.

    Old Testament was replaced by the New Testament law based on the premise that good always won, do onto others what you would have them do to you.

    The Bible is the Book of Good and Evil. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed, with your “ideological” attachments.

    Perhaps next time you won’t jump in so quick.

  • Rory Carr

    White Horse,

    That is utter gibberish. You really to read and study a lot more in order to fully understand just how mistaken you are.

    You are a very lucky man in that regard for, starting from a base of such absymal ignorance, you have a lifetime of exciting, wonderful study to which to look forward. If I were you I would begin by consulting a good Talmudic scholar. Your nearest synagogue should be of help in helping you to locate one.

    In the meantime, I might suggest that you at least browse through the works of Erich Fromm. To Have or To Be would be a useful starting point.

  • Rory Carr

    Typo: Ist Para. 2nd sentence: “You really do need to read….”


  • wee buns

    Don’t forget ecconomic circumstances enormously enhance impulse for whiff of cordite. The ‘poorest areas’ from which the ‘disaffected’ teens are drawn, gets a skinny mention, with no reference to the increase in unemployment, standard or cost of living.

  • Munsterview


    For whatever it is worth, I see absolutely no softening of attitudes up there to ‘ them RUC’ as I hear the PRSNI frequently referred to in Nationalist areas now days. Nationalists people are not fools, they have seen how this force act in the Ardoyne, especially in a riot situation.

    They have also seen how these same forces act and react in East Belfast even in a situation where shots are fired at them.

    It seems that a few stones thrown at the Police in the Ardoyne is met with more of a response than a few bullets fired at them in East Belfast. Then there is the ongoing weekly and weekend intimidation of Catholic families in certain areas by Loyalist Gangs and organized paramilitaries that seem to meet with complete indifference from the PRSNI.

    If your are a Nationalist working class, then it is very difficult to see real change on the ground; a lot of non mainstream republicans believe that the PRSNI have an eye on a future breakdown and in that situation they do not want to fight a war on two fronts, they want to keep the lines open to the loyalist militants.

    This also raises the the question of a significant section of the majority and protestant elements of the force being drawn from the same gene pool as most of these militant Loyalist elements, living in the same areas and socializing in the same clubs and pubs.

    How can such people deal impartially with Catholic and Protestant alike when one society is in the main hostile and the second are drinking buddy cultural associates ?

  • West Sider

    Ah, the old academic paper.

    We had one earlier this year stating that all us nationalists, well most of us, supported the druggie dissies.

    And now, another paper, from another academic, not living here, sets the news agenda and does the PR work for the child-killers of the diss variety.

    It’s interesting that an open goal remains untroubled. That would be:


    The Good Friday Agreement is signed. The republican movement embark on a purely political path. Irish people north and south endorse the agreement. Look forward to a shared future.

    In the same year:

    Dissident republicans kill 29 and maim 220 Irish/Spanish/English men, women and children.

    Movement: by 2010, Sinn Fein on the cusp of becoming the largest party in the NI assembly with the prospect of a SF first minister, equality agenda firmly established, nationalists more confident and optimistic than at any time since the formation of the state.

    By 2010: Dissident republicans have killed more Irish people, have almost killed more children in Lurgan, have crippled and traumatised an Irish patriot in an under car explosion, have drawn the loathing and hatred of the nationalist and republican communities across the island of island as they try to create the conditions for conflict.


    Who has been more successful?

    Have the dissies the increased capacity to achieve absolutely nothing?

    If you look at how many Irish people they’ve killed since that slaughter in Omagh, you would say no. After all, killing Irish people seems to be their main strategy.

    They haven’t killed anywhere near as much and it has been totally ineffectual compared to the political path pursued by republicans.

  • Munsterview

    Old Sod,

    “….The dissidents are banking everything on the 1916 legacy, where a small bunch of militants made a blood sacrifice of their own and many other peoples lives, which at the time had no popular support and was considered wrong and without legitimate mandate…….”,

    Wrong, wrong and wrong again !

    The popular support was there but Republicans were denied a right to mobilize and follow their aims openly and democratically. This was in stark contrast to the UVF which got every possible accommodation for their subversion of the democratic politics, policies and processes.

    One have only to look at what happened in the Six Counties, Four Counties had a Unionist majority for Union, they demanded a right for each of these four counties, both individually and collectively to opt out of the Republic as proposed by the other twenty eight counties.

    These four counties then blatantly annexed another two adjacent counties with the help of the British Establishment and absolutely denied the right of these two counties democratic mandate and decision making that they claimed for their own four.

    Since coming on this site I have repeatedly requested a reasonable explanation for that and I am still waiting !

    The IRISH Republican Brotherhood was organized right throughout the whole thirty two counties, when they acted they were acting the collective wish of their various cells. Had they been free to openly advocate their aims and canvass support for them at any election prior to 1918 that support would have been seen.

    As it was there were a significant number of MP’s who were known to be IRB men from youth. Given the support shown for the IRB in 1918, as it was for IRB personnel who were fronted by Sinn Fein, there is little doubt as to the real support that the IRB always had.

  • White Horse


    I have read his books. I see no evidence in your authoritarian moral outlook that you have.

    Give the utter gibberish a few days. You may know then that books contain words that make moral and other suggestions but that morality is of the heart when meaningful and of the head when contrived to justify evil.

  • Pete Baker


    Do you remember the former commenter John O’Connell?

    Just a thought…

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “For whatever it is worth, I see absolutely no softening of attitudes up there to ‘ them RUC’ as I hear the PRSNI frequently referred to in Nationalist areas now days. Nationalists people are not fools, they have seen how this force act in the Ardoyne, especially in a riot situation.”

    By literally being as light-handed as physically possible in the face of bricks, bottles, paving slabs, bullets and petrol bombs?

    There’s not a police force in the world who would have reacted with such restraint in the face of that level of hostility.

    “They have also seen how these same forces act and react in East Belfast even in a situation where shots are fired at them.”

    Despite living in east Belfast I can’t recall Loyalists shooting at police in recent times.

    When was this?

    “Then there is the ongoing weekly and weekend intimidation of Catholic families in certain areas by Loyalist Gangs and organized paramilitaries that seem to meet with complete indifference from the PRSNI.”

    When? Where? Evidence?

    Interface rioting is at it’s lowest levels for a number of years. However, there does seem to be a campaign by dissidents in certain areas to stoke up sectarian trouble. We seen this in the summer at Broadway, Ardoyne and Springfield Road.

    As I type this the residents of Cluan Place are being attacked with bricks and bottles (been ongoing nightly for a few weeks) and it seems neither the PSNI or PIRA are capable of stopping them due to some of the youths having links to various dissident groups. It seems only the fierce weather can stop the onslaught at the moment.

    “If your are a Nationalist working class, then it is very difficult to see real change on the ground; a lot of non mainstream republicans believe that the PRSNI have an eye on a future breakdown and in that situation they do not want to fight a war on two fronts, they want to keep the lines open to the loyalist militants.”

    What loyalist militants?

    The mainstream Loyalist paramilitaries are in the process of winding down, the LVF have been broken up and any Loyalist with half a brain knows any attacks on Nationalists will only increase support for the dissidents.

    The prospect of Nationalist vs Loyalist is tiny. At the moment it’s Peaceful Unionists & Nationalists vs a tiny group of headcases.

    “This also raises the the question of a significant section of the majority and protestant elements of the force being drawn from the same gene pool as most of these militant Loyalist elements, living in the same areas and socializing in the same clubs and pubs.”

    Eh, you must have missed the positive discrimination designed to substantially increase catholic numbers in the police??

    And as for middle class protestant policemen drinking in the same pubs and clubs as Loyalist paramilitaries – don’t make me laugh!

    Bangor Golf Club and the East Belfast Working Men’s Club have very different clientele!!

    “How can such people deal impartially with Catholic and Protestant alike when one society is in the main hostile and the second are drinking buddy cultural associates ?”

    The problem is more likely to be that when the PSNI work in Unionist areas they dealt with respectfully but when they go to Nationalist areas they are likely to be spat on, bricked or even shot in the back of the head.

    It can be hard to see the realities on the ground from a different country – if there’s anything you need to know just drop me a line and I’ll tell you how things really are….

  • Pete Baker

    “and it has been totally ineffectual compared to the political path pursued by republicans.”

    Yeah, the Provisionals were so successful in achieving their aims..

    During Martin Mcguinness’s early days as head of the IRA’s Derry Brigade in the early 1970s, he is said to have made the city’s center “look as if it had been bombed from the sky without causing the death of a single civilian”; while a decade later he sat on the IRA’s army council while it approved the bombing of the hotel used by the British Cabinet for 1984 Tory Conference and, two years later, he told delegates at a Sinn Fein conference that the party’s “unapologetic support for the right of Irish people to oppose …in arms the British forces of occupation… is a principle… it will never, never, never change, because the war against British rule must continue until freedom is achieved.” [added emphasis]

  • old school

    So it’s progress to be the first Minister of an entity which only recently you refused to recognise?
    Thats not progress for Republicans, it’s a regressive step.
    Republicans on both sides of the border have tried to bring down partition, and make the 6 Counties unworkable since the Treaty was signed in 1922.
    I’d imagine it will continue irregardless of which Puppet Minister is in charge.

  • old school

    On the programme itself, and the Title, “The return of the Militants”.
    I’m reminded of this.
    “The Defenders of the Realm have worked well. In secret and in public.
    They think they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half.
    They think they have foreseen everything. Have provided against everything.
    But the fools, the fools. They have left us our Fenian dead.
    And while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”
    Padraig Pearse. 1915.
    Could have been written yesterday.

  • White Horse


    You’re the only one who’s posted on here opposing me who thinks that is new.

    I dare say they’ll be at your door some time soon.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “These four counties then blatantly annexed another two adjacent counties with the help of the British Establishment and absolutely denied the right of these two counties democratic mandate and decision making that they claimed for their own four.

    Since coming on this site I have repeatedly requested a reasonable explanation for that and I am still waiting !”

    Hearing this argument often I always wonder what you’d have preferred instead?

    An island wide civil war possibly resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and probably minority Unionist rule???

    That’s probably what would have happened. Sound like a good alternative to you??

  • Pete Baker

    “I dare say they’ll be at your door some time soon.”

    I’m sure they will…

  • Stephen Ferguson

    And it’s nonsense like this which leads to vulnerable, gullible young Nationalists wasting their lives away in prisons or prematurely decomposing in cemeteries.

    Grow up.

  • George

    But they don’t think they are wasting their lives, that’s the point.

    They are quite happy to not contest evidence, to refuse pleas in mitigation and be handed sentences more harsh than would be otherwise be the case.

    Just like Pearse, they think the long war, and by long I mean not in any of our lifetimes.

    Is unionism on the island of Ireland stronger than it was a century ago?

    Is it stronger than it was 50 years ago?

    Will unionism on the island of Ireland be stronger or weaker in 50 years?

    Their battle isn’t with the situation today, it’s with history.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    I’m sure that will be comforting for them when they’ve got a prison officer’s finger up their arse or their widowed wives are struggling to bring up a gaggle of children while they decompose in Milltown cemetery.

    Long war? More like an unwinnable, pointless war if you ask me.

  • Alias

    “they think the long war”

    The problem is that they don’t think at all. They don’t understand the meaning of self-determination, the concept of a just war, or even the basics of strategy.

  • Rory Carr

    Can’t think who you’re referring to , Pete.

    John O’Connell, a commenter on Slugger ? The Liverpool Dylanesque folk singer? Dr John O’Connell T.D. ? The Rhode island congressman? The New York cop? The baseball player? (One of) Daniel O’Connell’s son(s) ?

    Go on – give us a hint.

  • Rory Carr

    Very good, Pete. But that was then and this is now. Do keep up.

  • Alan Maskey

    Some of the dissident leaders I know do think. They live in their myths and cocoons just as we do. Theirs are just that bit more explosive.
    When Dev left SFIRA to set up FF, there was plenty of overlap between FF and the IRA. Dav famously said the IRA were only carrying on where he left off.
    If you read Saoirse, which is now a mere five or so months behind, they live in their own puddles of the past. They harp on about the dark old days of the 1940s and the pivotal 1950s and they hope they are seting the seeds so that the flames will rise agin.
    Irish ballads are ful of it: Fr Murphy. God save Ireland etc

  • another

    Perhaps it is the intention of the dissidents to bomb us all into a United Ireland, so that we can all get free cheese and bathe in the economic cesspit bequeathed to us all by 90 odd years of clientelism.

    Perhaps as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, it is the patriotic duty of all Northern Nationalists that they too should play a part in helping to bail out the banks.

    Truth be told, the Republic is dead; the dissidents are backwoodsmen merely pissing in the wind; inarticulate and impotent. Quite what the country will have to celebrate come 2016 is open to question.

  • Alan Maskey

    Why celebrate? Oliver Cromwell had the good sense to outlaw Christmas? Why have a piss up because James Connolly and Tom Clarke were shot?
    If their memory has to be honoured, don’t have a party. have a revolution and get rid of the dross. But when you consider how deep and how deply embedded is the dross all you can do is feel sorry for Connolly, Clarke and the others.

  • White Horse


    Pete thought he was doing the same tragic old unionist thing of selling the enemies of his enemies to them in return for his safety. Clearly an individualist tradition.

  • West Sider

    Well said, Rory. It seems Pete shares something in common with the dissidents an unwillingness to let the past go and move on.

  • West Sider

    I recognise the First Minister and always have.

    Don’t presume to know what I do and do not accept.

  • OldSod

    I never mentioned Bosnia, but I would argue that the dissidents are essentially trying to wreck stability, peace and “the normal state of affairs”,… hoping that this will lead to a collapse of Northern Ireland’s institutions, services, chaos in society and generally create enough anti-British / anti-unionist unrest that NI is ungovernable. They hope that this is the catalyst that leads to British withdrawal.
    Most importantly, they do not see themselves as able to do this on their own, they only keep murdering and blowing limbs off people in order to keep the “flame” alive long enough for the masses to rise up.
    At least that is my analysis at present.

    I have said it before, because there is no crisis or mass unrest in NI at present, they are trying to manufacture it and god help anybody in their way, because there is no room for those who disagree with them.
    They have no respect to those of us who are also Irish, but do not define ourselves in the same narrow way they do. Surely I am as entitled as they are to define my own national identity?

  • old school

    I can handle debate regarding the Good Friday agreement or criticism of my viewpoint, but blanket descriptions such as “backwoodsmen” “inarticulate” and “impotent” smacks of patronising guff.
    I view such verbal attacks as the works of someone clutching to a comfort blanket.
    BTW, it is not the aim of republicans to extend Gombeen Rule into the 6 Counties. It’s about the creation of a new Republic. A 32 county Republic.
    And when I say Republic, I’m not referring to the 26 County version.

  • Nuance

    Just moving away from the historical catechisms…

    I’m confused. Who are exactly the ‘Brits’ that republicans claim they want out of Northern Ireland? When exactly would they be able to say all trace of the ‘Brits’ has gone?

    Would it require the ethnic cleansing of all those civilians who call themselves ‘British’ and are represented by local politicians (equally calling themselves British)? I don’t get it at all, because unless republicans refer to loyalists and unionists I’m not sure who they mean. Existing political structures were an agreement between local parties, overseen by a mixture of British, Irish and American governments, so I’m not sure in what sense those can be called British. Is it the PSNI?

    Please educate me, I want to understand this argument better. If it really is about ridding Northern Ireland of everyone who considers themselves British then perhaps come out and say so? If not, then be clearer…

  • old school

    Nuance, it’s not rocket science.
    There was a time 2 thirds of the globe was marked in red of the British Empire. They’ve since left most of these nations including the United States, Canada, Australia etc.
    They’ve all moved on, and most of those who were loyal to the Crown in these Nations stayed on, went on with their work and raised families.
    All republicans ask is that they are afforded the same right of National sovereignty, and self determination afforded to other former British colonies.
    I’ll defend the rights of Protestants in a Sovereign Ireland as much as Catholics in a British Colony.
    Those who defend the Union, be they Protestant or Catholic will have to decide post Independence where they want to live. Only they can make their adult decisions. They should certainly be made welcome to stay and move on after the transition, and Loyalists in America and Canada etc have historically done.

  • White Horse

    Old School

    Many Protestants have anxieties that Irish republicanism has never really understood. If Irish republicans understood they wouldn’t use violence.

    The very identity of a planter encompasses a fear that he did wrong and will somehow always be made to pay.

    How can the planter trust the Irish republican who seems to want to force him into a situation where he would have no protection against that desire to make him pay?

    How about seeing beyond sociopathy and to a situation where our people are allowed to reach out without offending some indecency of the failed ideologies of unionism and Irish republicanism?

  • Nuance

    Old School,

    That argument I understand, I do. I understand the general arguments for a united Ireland, and I respect them.

    But it didn’t answer my question at all. When republicans say they want rid of all the Brits here, who do they mean? Because the argument for a united Ireland and for a purging of all that might be British from Northern Ireland are two different things.

    The point being, if we had a united Ireland tomorrow, there would be a substantial minority who considered themselves British, and would fight (one way or another) for the right to self-determination just as republicans do.

    I know maybe that’s a subtle distinction, but I’m still left asking who exactly the Brits are who republicans mean when they say ‘Brits out’.

  • Roasted Snow

    This is such an important point for mainstream republicans to grasp and deal with. Republicans would no doubt argue that they are talking about the British state when they refer to the Brits and not unionists who they would see as Irish. the point is unionists see themselves as British. If republicans are serious about progress towards a unitary state they would need to explain clearly to the unionist population what sort of state they are talking about. Is it the extension of the bankrupt 26 county republic or a Second Republic with a new constitution and federal rights for the north with even a British dimension. The political avenues are available for such campaigning. car bombs and attacks on psni officers will do nothing but project misery on everyone. Perhaps SF could organise mass campaigning in nationalist areas to close the dissidents down, just like the drug dealers in dublin in the 80s.

  • Nuance

    Also one other thing about that line Old School.

    Most British loyalists in America moved to Canada; and there is one huge difference between loyalists in places like Canada and Australia – those states are not violently anti-British – so much so that they found themselves roles in the Commonwealth. Now I’m not advocating that at all, but put yourself in the ‘Ulster’ loyalist’s shoes. He sees a state that historically has (for good reasons, I won’t deny) hated all that is British. For a long time there was a Cold War of a sort between the two countries. Is it a long shot to imagine that loyalists here might be fearful of that future? Is it a long shot for republicans to recognise that, and to work non-violently to persuade them?

    I know many of them are doing so; but republicans need to be sensitive to the loyalist mindset to move forwards with its ambition. The point I was making was that ‘Brits Out’ is an utterly unhelpful slogan, because loyalists simply think that means them. And that a united Ireland means ethnic cleansing of Brits.

  • another

    In terms of the old school Ra hunkered up in their bunker bars, the Brits were anybody who lived in North Down.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Old Sod,
    You have it right, even the more intelligent people within 32-county Nationalism have largely failed to address its eclipse and truly move into a “post-nationalist” era.

    The narrative that has been spun to nationalist voters about the Troubles is disingenuous and is at the heart of this.

    The idea of there being a single Irish nation is dead, now that nationalism has formally recognised the equal value of British identity and Irish identity in Ireland. There simply isn’t a single Irish nation and it would be wrong to try and create one, because it is morally wrong to ask someone to change their national allegiance – it suggests their national culture is inferior to yours. So now we are in a grown-up politics where we have all, you would hope, realise that.

    And yet mainstream Irish nationalist parties have still not had a frank conversation with their electorate about it. They encourage their followers to keep on believing that striving for Irish unity is some kind of moral good. At the same time, a story is told of the Troubles in which (1) British people and culture in Northern Ireland are denigrated and (2) Irish nationalist violence is glibly under-emphasised.

    The message going out to new generations of Ulster Catholics seems to be, we’re putting up with these Prod buggers until such time as we have outbred them, then we take over. With such an inspiring programme, no wonder some of the stupider sons and daughters of Erin think, why not speed up the process with violence?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “These four counties then blatantly annexed another two adjacent counties with the help of the British Establishment and absolutely denied the right of these two counties democratic mandate and decision making that they claimed for their own four.

    Since coming on this site I have repeatedly requested a reasonable explanation for that and I am still waiting !”

    I gave you a reasonable explanation last week. And you didn’t seem to have any come back to my point, which was that the best solution would have been to get ethnic demographers in to draw a more accurate border. This was done in many parts of Europe in the period around the post-WW1 peace treaties so trained and experienced operators were available, particularly from France. They did a lot of the mapping of the new borders in Eastern Europe.

    I quite agree the border we ended up with wasn’t brilliant. But I’m not sure many Irish nationalists have been suggesting a more accurate division.

    But to be fair to you, the 4 county NI you suggest would have been a more democratically legitimate shape for the border than the 6 county one; and there is a good argument for moving to that border in the future. I would certainly advocate looking at that.

  • Munsterview

    Pete : I should have begun my contribution to this thread by complementing you on a good, insightful article. It is also one that all Unionist shades should carefully read.

    White H, Stephen, etc, please note I am not just ignoring items on these threads for want of argument. I always had a life, I had several in fact apart from my political activity and likewise now I have a life apart from slugger and a computer keyboard. I do not usually take my computer with me when culturally traveling and even if I do, I do not usually post or blogg while away.

    I had had an invite to a cultural event in Ulster and took a few days break. I also took a trip over to Donegall to see how things were going there. I then came back through Strabane and had a leisurely trip down to Cavan meeting a few friends and cultural contacts along the way.

    So Stephen and others, no need to drop you a line to find out how things are up there I may have a better idea of how things are West Of The Bann than East Coast keyboard jockeys who know nothing of life west of the A 26 or A19 never mind the A5 !

    First Donegall : still too close to for me call; if Fianna Failure were forced to pick a place for a last stand, Donegall would be it. Their vote is down, well down but the early indications are that it is also well up over the National average. There is a good strong showing by SF, FF and Labour. FG is not firing on all cylinders by the look of things and seems to be a bit lackluster in their approach.

    We are then back to which of the big three, SF, FF or Labour are first eliminated. If SF are ahead then FF or Labour will provide enough transfers for SF to take the seat.

    However there is a classical Black Swan here also, some of our greyheads have factored in and I agree with them, FF like SF have a long view. If FF think that they cannot make it and tactically decide on a disciplined way to vote up FG to halt the SF bandwagon, then the seat could be Labor’s on transfers. It is going to be very interesting indeed.

    Second, back to a point that I have repeatedly made here, a whole chorus of voices from Political polemics such as Alias, to Provo haters like Maskey unmasked mock and deride Sinn Feins achievements at every opportunity. On the unionist side Turgon, and others say exactly the same thing.

    Republicans who still hold that Armed Action can produce results also hold that Republicans got nowhere politically and are in a dead end. I passed through three major towns and another half dozen smaller places from Strabane down to Cavan without seeing a single police man, soldier or indeed uniform of any sort inside the Six Counties.

    That is in stark contrast to many a time I travelled that same route with concerns for my personal safety for every mile travelled. There was far more poliece activity in Donegal and on the Cavan side with car checks etc. However all of this is revenue driven : According to a garda friend they have been told their overtime depends on what fines revenue they can generate. A good movitator for them coming up to Christmas !

    In short there is nothing to stop me or any other Irish person going anywhere we want on this island without political check, controol or harrasment that had been the norm up to the relativly recent past. My son and his girlfriend were up there for a few days in the summer, he had to phone me to find out if he had actually crossed the border.

    This was the same area where in the seventies, I had helped rebuild bridges and reopen roads blown up by the British Army in the early seventies to pander to Unionist optics.

    Political condemnation, especially from extreme and insulting Unionist sources are not going to recruit too many followers for the GFA, on the contrary it is saying to Nationalist youth, nothing has changed, these people still rule the roost and you are second class citizens.

    Young Nationalists have their pride, they will not accept a Croppies Lie Down status : if they see that there is a genuine Unionist willingness to listen and to reach an accommodation, then they will at least have second thoughts about armed force being the only way forward. While the barrage of insults and sectarian denigration continue, then those who advocate armed force as the only vehicle of change will have an audience.

    On purely nihilistic terms, if those not interested in accommodation crow long and loud enough that nothing has changed and that the Unionist are still in total control, then the temptation is there to show certain people that they do not in fact have ‘normalization’

    There is unfortunately a very simple way to demonstrate that fact.

  • keano

    happy days, Pete, when Mcguinness used to be a republican!

  • keano

    Isn’t now a good time to intensify a bombing campaign? With the current economic woes, wouldn’t it hurt the brits with an all out offensive. Surely they must be getting sick of the costs of running the north. This can be done without the loss of life and if carefully planned by a secure unit we wouldnt see volunteers imprisoned. If a steady campaign isn’t forthcoming we may have to wait for another generation of militant republicans to rid this island of unwanted foreign interference

  • Brian

    The extra 2 counties were added by the British Cabinet when drafting the 1920 bill. They were solely included so that NI would not look too small on a map and prove rather embarassing when explaining the situation to international (US and others) audiences. (If you’re interested I will post the books and page numbers if you want to see or verify for yourself when I get home-I have two in my personal library that mention this I beleive). Bottomline, George and co. could care less about democracy or a democratic process…(but we knew that already.)

    6 counties or 4, however, I don’t think it would have been a problem had the Unionist elites proved willing to treat Catholics as full citizens with the rights of citizens. Instead, they played the Orange card when necessary and kept both communities hatreds of each others alive and well to the benefit of no one but themselves.

  • Brian


  • Scáth Shéamais

    Tommy McKearney: Frampton’s folly

  • Thanks for that link man. Good to see Tommy is still strong. Hope Margaret is well too. Is she still married to that one armed Ardoyne joker?

    I found Tommy’s literary efforts interesting but like the dark, they lack the necessary leavening. I also note he is in this new outfit, the Independent Workers Union, no doubt with a lot of Cork anarchists and some hot Brazilian babes.
    No offence but I think he should go back to the Moy butchers’ shop. Awful what happened there and to his brother at Loughall. I admire his mother, holding up, despite it all.
    I also admire Tommy. Some integrity there, which is more than can be said for the Adams gang. But I do admire them too. And their handlers, who pick their tulips with care.
    I gave you the coveted dix points for this.